In celebration of National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) and Mabo Day (3 June), we had a chat to Eddie Mabo’s granddaughter, Kristal West. The Meriam Mer-speaking, Murray Island woman of the Piadram Clan chats about her collection of songs entitled Remembering Ata and single Nibe Nibe, which will be released for the 25th anniversary year of the High Court native title ruling.
Why is it important for you to celebrate your grandfather through music? It is important to celebrate my grandfather through music because it captures history within a song. It shares his story, journey and the positive influence he has not only had on my life, but my family’s life and the wider community.
What was it like to grow up carrying his legacy? I have always been positively influenced and inspired by my grandfather’s legacy, however I have always known him as my Ata (grandfather). I grew up hearing stories about his love for painting, about him having a passion for his boat and about how much he had a big heart. The rest of the story was there, but it wasn’t the focus.
Tell us about putting together single Nibe Nibe – who collaborated on this track, and what inspired it? Nibe Nibe came to fruition with the guidance of my Aunty, Ruth Ghee and the single is in collaboration with her latest project, Hummingbird Collective. I grew up around my family listening to this song for years, and I felt this song would be a perfect song to dedicate to my grandfather’s legacy. It tells a story of everything he believed in – his people, his island home and his identity.
How does your forthcoming EP Remembering Ata tell the story of your grandfather? My forthcoming EP will entail stories of my Ata’s journey in life and the court case, my Ata’s love for my grandmother and how he has impacted me personally. This is a very personal project for me, although the 25th anniversary is a big deal for most Indigenous Australians, it is not common knowledge among the broader community. The impact of his fight and those others who worked for years to see change is something we all should honour.
Tell us about the rest of the songs – what can we expect to hear? These songs will be very personal stories from his children, his wife and his grandchildren.
What will you be doing on 3 June (Mabo Day)? 3 June will be spent with my family, remembering. We will all be participating in the Mabo Day March in Musgrave Park in Brisbane and will be performing as part of the cultural program on 2 June. It should be a fantastic day of food, performances and cultural displays.
Other than his story, what inspires your music? I am inspired by life and its ups and downs. I am inspired by the strength and resilience of people. I am inspired to share to the world through my eyes.